First Black Director of Police Personnel
1850: Richard Freeman was hired as a San Diego Deputy City Marshal/Policeman. A freed slave, his appointment likely made him the first Black lawman west of the Mississippi and perhaps the United States. 1909: Frank McCarter was hired as a Special Police Officer with patrol duties relegated to the “Darktown” area of San Diego. 1913: On August 27, 1913 the Police Department hired two Black Special Officer’s, J.C. Roark and Charles Swain. 1915: Detective Reginald S. Townsend was hired as the Department’s first Black Detective. Partnered with Detective Walter Weymouth and health inspector Walter Bellon, the trio were instrumental in cleaning up the notorious vice ridden Stingaree district. 1918: John W. Cloud was hired by the Police Department as a Chauffeur. He would go on to become the first Black officer to complete a 20 year career with the SDPD.
1935: John Cloud was promoted to the rank of Detective Sergeant. Despite racism and segregation across the US, a number of white officers requested to work under Sergeant Cloud.
1935: William “Bert” Ritchey was hired as a Patrolman. Eight years later he became SDPD’s 2nd Black Sergeant and was instrumental part in establishing the crime lab. 1942: Harold T. Henson was hired as SDPD’s first Black Police Lifeguard. He soon left for service in WWII and served in 3 wars. 1943: Officer Jack T. Bransford was hired. Partnered with Bert Ritchey, the two were instrumental in a number of arrests. 1956: Officer James Washington jumped into a burning truck to save the driver from a certain death. He was later awarded the prestigious Carnegie Medal, one of America's highest honors for heroism. Officer Washington was the 1st member of the SDPD to ever receive the award. 1963: Officer Sam Edmonds became SDPD’s first Black Motorcycle Officer. 1964: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation in public places and employment discrimination on the basis of race and color. By the time the law passed SDPD had already employed more than 2 dozen Black employees.
1974: Helga Johnson was hired as SDPD’s first Black female police officer.
1974: The San Diego Black Police Officers Association was founded.
1982: Sergeant Michael Gillespie was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant making him the first Black officer to attain the rank.
1989: Officer Raymond Dobbs became the first Black officer in Department history to receive the Medal for Valor, SDPD’s highest award, after rescuing a woman from a fire 19 years earlier. 1993: Captain Rulette Armstead was promoted to the rank of Assistant Chief of Police. The promotion made her the highest ranking Black female in SDPD history. 2018: SDPD launched it its first Juneteenth celebration honoring pioneering Black officers.
2021: Black officers serve the department at almost all command /supervisory levels including two (of six) as Assistant Chief of Police, 4 of (17) as Captain's and numerous Lieutenant's and Sergeants.
First Black Captain & Assistant Chief
First Black Female Officer
Assistant Chief of Police Terence Charlot is currently the highest ranking Black member of the
San Diego Police Department